Phone scammers are a devious bunch and they use a variety of tactics to trick vulnerable people into giving them money and personal information.
Often, phone scammers will attempt to panic a victim into paying by claiming that the victim owes money for taxes, fines, utility bills, or other unexpected fees. The scammers may be very threatening and may even claim that the victim will be arrested and jailed if payment is not made.
In other cases, the scammers may claim that the victim has won a lottery or is eligible for a tax refund or a large cash grant from a government agency or other organisation. But, the scammers will claim that the victim must pay various fees upfront before the funds can be sent to them.
In many cases, the scammers demand that the victim provide credit card details to make the supposed payments. Alternatively, they may instruct the victim to go out and purchase a pre-paid debit card and then call back with the card details.
And, increasingly, scammers are insisting that victims provide iTunes Gift Card codes as a means of payment.
Here’s how the iTunes Gift Card scams generally play out:
1: The victim gets a call from a scammer who invents a cover story like those mentioned above and warns that the victim must make an immediate payment or face dire consequences.
2: The scammer insists that the victim pays with iTunes Gift Cards and instructs him or her to hang up, go out and buy some of the cards at the nearest retail outlet, and then call back.
3: When the victim calls back, the scammer will ask for the 16-digit code on the back of the iTunes cards.
4. The scammer can then use the card code to purchase goods and services on the iTunes Store, App Store, iBooks Store, or for an Apple Music membership.
Scammers are using this method because iTunes Gift Card purchases cannot be easily traced back to offenders. If victims pay using the cards, it will usually be impossible for them to get their money back.
Keep in mind that iTunes Gift Cards can ONLY be used to purchase goods and services on the iTunes Store, App Store, iBooks Store, or for an Apple Music membership.
Any call that wants you to pay a supposed debt or fine using an iTunes card is certain to be a scam. No legitimate entity will ever ask that you make a payment using iTunes Gift Cards. If you receive such a call, just hang up.
Apple has published information about these scams on its website.
Note that scammers may sometimes demand that people pay with other types of store gift cards as well as iTunes cards.
People familiar with computers and the Internet may find it difficult to understand how anyone could fall for a scam that demanded payment via iTunes Gift Cards.
But, keep in mind that there are still many people who do not have a computer at home and have only a rudimentary knowledge of the Internet and online payment systems.
They will no doubt have seen displays of iTunes Gift Cards in various stores without having any real understanding of what the cards are actually for. So, a clever phone scammer may be able to easily convince them that the iTunes cards are a new and safe way to make payments over the phone.
If you have less tech-savvy relatives, friends, or neighbours who you think may be vulnerable to such scams you may want to take a few minutes to bring them up to speed.